Freshman pitcher Cameron Mathes grew up in Broomall, Pa. where he enjoyed playing sports like soccer and baseball. Mathes pitched and played shortstop in high school and is now gearing up for his first season with the Wildcats baseball team, but it wasn't always smooth sailing for the local product of Marple Newtown High School.
At the age of three, Mathes was diagnosed with leukemia. Although he doesn't remember the initial diagnosis or all of his treatments, the experience of fighting the disease and the stories his family has told him are a constant reminder of what he has overcome. While undergoing chemotherapy, he was treated at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, also known as CHOP. Among the complications of his cancer treatments were getting pneumonia and having his liver fail. At one point, he spent a month receiving in-patient treatment at CHOP.
"I don't remember much about when I was diagnosed or about having cancer, but stories I have heard are that I was so hungry from the medicine that I would be going in four times a night for food. I had pneumonia and my liver failed, which caused me to be in the hospital for a month. I have heard stories of me screaming and crying when I had to be held down to get shots," Mathes said.
Mathes was cancer free by the time he was four years old, although he was not quite out of the woods yet. Growing up, he would have to return to CHOP to receive check-ups and spinal taps to ensure that the cancer had not returned. At first, he would have to go back four times a year, then two times a year, and eventually once a year. He currently returns once every five years.
"Hearing the stories and knowing I overcame so much shows me that some of the small problems I'm having today aren't that important compared to what I have overcome and what my parents have helped me overcome," Mathes said. "Going back to CHOP and listening to stories of what other kids had to go through was very eye opening."
"Cameron's story is a true source of resilience and inspiration. When things aren't going our way in our everyday lives sometimes we all need to be reminded how good we have it and how lucky we are to have our health," said Villanova Baseball head coach Kevin Mulvey.
Despite not remembering much during a difficult time, Mathes' experience has shaped his outlook on life today. Giving back to a community that has always been there when he needed them is very important to him. In high school, he got involved with the well-known organization, Alex's Lemonade Stand. The foundation was started by Alexandra Scott, who was diagnosed with cancer at four years old and received treatment at CHOP at the same time as Mathes. She raised thousands of dollars while fighting her illness, and although she passed away at the age of eight, the organization she founded has raised over $150 million for cancer research. Mathes helped the foundation at charity events in the area as well as speaking at several events that they host.
"Being part of the community is very important for me and I want to give back to the people who are struggling like I was. I want to show them that even when you're down you can get back up because there is always a reason to keep fighting" said Mathes.
Most recently, he got involved with an event called "Kick It" for cancer, which is also part of Alex's Lemonade stand. "Kick-It" for cancer is a way to raise money for childhood cancer through hosting kickball games for anyone to participate in. Mathes, along with other survivors created a short video in which they showed how sports can help give back to the community in a positive way. He tries to get involved in any way that he can and hopes that he can find ways to continue his philanthropic work while being a student-athlete.
"In high school, one of my friends on the football team was diagnosed with cancer my junior year. Our whole team came together from every sport I played for - basketball, baseball, football - and we kind of realized that if we all worked together as a school we could get through it, as a team we could get though it and that's been the mentality I've always played with," said Mathes.
Mathes has begun his first semester at Villanova studying business, and it's one of the many reasons he chose to attend the university.
"I chose Villanova because it's a local school, one of the best schools in the area, and I want to start a business as they have one of the best business schools in the country." said Mathes.
He was named to the All-DELCO first team in 2016 while helping the team reach the state semifinals. Mathes was also named to the All-Southeast Pennsylvania third team in 2017. Looking back on his high school baseball career, Mathes recalled that his most memorable game came when he was a senior. It was his high school's 2017 district baseball championship game where he led the team to a victory over Springfield. Mathes pitched six innings in that game and allowed just one hit.
"Cameron is a very special person that we are all excited to have as part of our program. I'm looking forward to seeing him on the mound competing for the Wildcats," said Mulvey.
The baseball team is in the midst of fall ball in preparation for the 2018 campaign. One of the highlights of the fall season is the annual intra-squad World Series. The Wildcats will be split into two teams and compete against each other in a best-of-three series. One team will be crowned the winner at the end of fall, while the full 2018 campaign will kick off in February.
Even as he looks back at the obstacles he has overcome in his life, Mathes is excited about what the future holds.
"Fall Ball has been great so far," Mathes said. "It's a way for me to take my mind off school and get to know my teammates. Our team wants to win. We're going to do everything we can to win this year, win as many games as possible. We're going to work hard all fall and during the offseason so that come springtime we're ready to go."